The fact that more CEOs are looking for new ways to get closer to their customers is hardly breaking news. The challenge in today’s environment is that the proliferation of new digital mediums, interaction models and touch points has fragmented the customer journey. These customer interaction touch points make it more difficult to connect with perspective customers — who may not start their journey through a search engine or your website.
In fact, today customers are more apt to seek their friends’ opinions on social networks or read product reviews on trusted sites before in order to validate their purchases. Product discovery also happens in new ways as customers shop on an affiliate’s website, read blogs and community threads, or ask their social network contacts for opinions. As a result, they form their impressions before they are exposed to a brand’s well-defined marketing campaign. This new playing field presents challenges for retailers, which if not handled properly could leave them completely disconnected from their customers. The good news is that new Smarter Commerce approaches are taking shape and best of all, they delivering tremendous benefits.
One example of Smarter Commerce in action is the Remote App, a portable display that can be inserted into any destination website, be it an Internet property, affiliate partner, or social networking site Internet property. Once in place retailers can then push content to that display in a dynamic fashion. Today retailers are extending the brand experience beyond their website to where their customers spend time using these Remote Apps which are easy to create and customize and allow retailers to create, schedule, and execute cost-effective marketing campaigns (e.g. deal of the day, etc…) that push content across the Web, yet can be managed centrally. By employing this Smarter Commerce approach, retailers can hit thousands of remote websites in conjunction with direct digital channels, thereby extending their brand experience.
For example, a retailer can create an app for their Facebook page featuring the “Deals of the Week” or even the “Deal of the Day” ― both of which can be continually updated to keep customers wanting more. Retailers can also post an app on one of their channel partners’ websites. As with the Facebook example, the app can feature new products and deals that can be updated throughout the day.
In addition to customization, some apps can capitalize on viral shopping, letting customers create and share their wish lists, gift registries, and other personal lists (such as favorite products) on social networks like Facebook. This is especially important when you take into account the growing influence of these channels. According to Inside Facebook gold℠, the site has slightly more than 675 million users. By sharing a wish list among a consumer’s social network, they not only let friends and family know about gifts they would like to receive but also provide the retailer with an effective way to target a larger audience who may:
- Purchase their friend an item on the wish list;
- Decide to make a purchase of their own or to subscribe to the retailer’s “Deal of the Week” option, spurring a potential stream a future purchases; or
- Recommend the website to others in their network.
A real-life example of a Remote App in action can be viewed at Martha Stewart Living Radio. This site features a SIRIUS/XM Satellite Radio box which includes a “Grab This” button. When clicked, a small window pops up that includes text which the user can copy to transport the app to their own website where site visitors can then enjoy the latest Martha Stewart programming. Individuals can also click that button and share the app on sites such as Facebook, allowing the brand even more exposure and turning it into a truly viral campaign.
In the new world of the “SplinterNet,” where experiences have become highly fragmented across new mediums and channels, retailers need new approaches. Remote Apps are one example of a new Smarter Commerce tactic which is allowing retailers to regain some brand control by extending the brand experience beyond the silos of their website to affiliate websites, social networks, blogs and more. In doing so they bring the experience directly to the customer (i.e., where their customers already congregate), as opposed to waiting for customers to come to their website. The fact is that in an era when your customers are spending an increasing amount of time elsewhere, the opportunity to promote your brand on other web properties cannot be ignored.
John Mesberg is Vice President, Commerce Solutions for IBM. In this role he is responsible for bringing value to IBM clients through an expanded suite of solutions including powerful eCommerce capabilities, market-leading order management products, innovative optimization and logistics solutions, and extensive B2B integration capabilities. Formerly, Mesberg was Vice President of AIM Services & Support for IBM’s Software Group and Vice President of Financial Services Solutions for IBM’s Software Group. Prior to joining IBM Mesberg was part of Booz-Allen and Hamilton’s Information Technology Group. Mesberg began his career in Operations Management and IT management in manufacturing organizations.